By The Rivers

By the Rivers are about to embark on their acoustic tour. It was in their acoustic set up that I first unearthed By the Rivers. I stumbled across them on YouTube, where SB TV had caught them at Alexandra Palace. They performed an acoustic version of ‘Where You Gonna Go’ in an A64 session. I was hooked, a cliché I know but, I hadn’t heard anything like it. By the Rivers contemporary twist on Reggae cannot be ignored.  Members Nile Barrow and Jordan Birtles from Leicester formed the six piece in 2010 and have been friends since early childhood. Their catchy melodies and insightful lyrics echo issues that affect their youthful generation. ‘… when they’re coming after you? They don’t need evidence, they don’t need proof’, the social comment made parallels that of a favourite band of mine, super group Mongrel.  I couldn’t leave it there.

Immediately I wanted more, however my searches were running dry, the top result Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon.  With limited material available online – I needed to see this band live. When I finally got hold of a ticket I was rattled with excitement to what ‘new to me’ material I may hear.  It was a long wait but I got by on the One Word Single featured on Spotify which contained B-Side Take Control.

My first By the Rivers gig could not have been in a more perfect setting at a more perfect time. I’d just finished my A Levels, two years of slog, hard slog, over. I was lost I didn’t know what to do with time. DBE were hosting an End of Exam party across two venues. One of these being my favourite bar in the Midlands, The Orange Tree, it was here I completely shook off my two years of schooling. I’d never seen the Orange Tree more livelily – it was full to capacity. The energy and enthusiasm that By the Rivers bought to the town was like nothing before. The six piece filled the stage, the eye contact made between themselves and the audience was evidence that they couldn’t be enjoying their performance more.

Over the past two years Boney M’s hit has now been pushed to the bottom of the search page. YouTube is a now flood of By the Rivers singles, sessions and festival highlights and on Spotify you can stream their self-titled debut album. The band achieving success in reaching a top spot in BBC East Midlands Introducing’s ‘Countdown of Most Played Artists 2013’ and through recognition from reggae pioneer David Rodigan.

Their UK acoustic tour begins in Nottingham this February going on to Bristol, Hay on Wye, Loughborough, Norwich and Leicester. You can also catch them in Sheffield and Birmingham supporting The Selecter on their 35 year anniversary tour. Can’t wait till then? You can download the acoustic track ‘Board that Train’  for free now.

Marvellous Medicine

If you’ve been searching for the new groove: look no further. How happy I was to be introduced to Oxford-based Marvellous Medicine: very much a mash of jazz and folk, ska and rap, most of their melodies obviously fall into a reggae mood. They say that ‘this is a consistent feature, but you can hear Brecker-inspired funk in our song Colour, klezmer music in Streets and Avenues, and Spice Girls (!) in Girl Back Home.’

Marvellous Medicine met whilst studying at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, (the informal, arty kind of college) and it was the initial efforts of Rob – bass, Piers – keys, Jake – sax, and George – cello/djembe that founded the band. A year later, they were joined by Jamie and Holly, playing the guitar and drums respectively, and together formed MM, the six man wonder-band they are today.

Hailing from all over the UK, their backgrounds are an equally mixed bag when it comes to music. Rob, former member of a thrash metal band, cites a particular love of Bruce Springsteen, which proved of great influence in the song Homecoming. George has had classical training his whole life, and is now a formidable cellist, whilst Piers studied jazz and classical piano in Cardiff. The others are equally enthusiastic about their work, and have all been from an early age. But they do stress that this is foremostly a collaborative effort  – all members of the band sing, and they fondly consider themselves to be ‘a colorful set of personalities, but the music that comes out puts a smile on our faces’. Ours too.

So what’s next for MM? They have just released a four track EP, available on soundcloud here. They intend to continue making music together for the foreseeable future, with the ultimate intention of touring ‘Planet Earth’. I for one cannot wait; this band’s unique and soulful sound is well worth a listen. Catch them on their facebook page: facebook.com/MarvellousMedicine.